The term redistribution has different meanings for cultural anthropologists and for present-day mainstream economists, and its use is sometimes confusing depending on the contexts. In cultural anthropology and historical sociology redistribution is often associated with premodern or anthropological societies that are considered as characteristically nonmarket in their social configuration. The popularity of this use is influenced by the economic substantivism of Karl Polanyi that emphasizes the way economies are embedded in society, instead of having a status independent and beyond. For Polanyi, redistribution refers to a system of economic exchange involving the pooling of goods from members of a group, followed by the redistribution of the goods.

In mainstream economics that aims to explain market economy, redistribution of income and wealth is most often described as ...

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